The Kawasaki Ki-96 was a single-seat twin-engine fighter based on the Ki-45 Toryu that reached the prototype stage before work moved onto the two-seat Ki-102.
Work on the aircraft that would emerge as the Ki-96 began is an improved version of the two-seat Ki-45, the Ki-45-II. This was larger than the standard Ki-45, and with a modified tail. Work began in August 1942, and progressed slowly for the rest of the year, before in December the specification was changed. The second crew member and his manually operated machine gun were removed, and Kawasaki were ordered to complete their three prototype Ki-45-IIs and single-seat Ki-96s.
By this point the first prototype was already under construction, and its fuselage close to completion. As a result of this, when the first prototype made its maiden flight in September 1943 it had a large cockpit canopy for the pilot, and the second cockpit was simply faired over. The second and third prototypes were completed with a purpose-built new cockpit, with a single canopy that gave the pilot an all-round view.
The three prototypes were successful aircraft, handling well and performing better than expected, but by September 1943 the Japanese Army had already turned against the idea of the single-seat twin-engined heavy fighter. Instead Kawasaki were ordered to turn the new aircraft into the two-seat Ki-102 assault plane, intended for use in a close support or ground attack role.
Engine: Two Mitsubishi Ha-112-II fourteen-cylinder air-cooled radial engines
Power: 1,500hp each at take-off, 1,350hp each at 6,560ft, 1,250hp each at 19,030ft
Wing span: 51ft 1in
Length: 37ft 6 25/32in
Height: 12ft 1 21/32in
Empty Weight: 10,031lb
Loaded Weight: 13,228lb
Max Speed: 373mph at 19,685ft
Service Ceiling: 37,730ft
Range: 994 miles
Armament: One 37mm Ho-203 cannon in nose, two 20mm Ho-5 cannon under fuselage
Pay-load: Two 44 gallon drop tanks or two 551lb bombs